Reporting from: All over the world
Local Contact: Caroline Lovell
In Caroline’s words ~
I attended an all-girl high school in the 1970s when the women’s movement was in full swing. I was keenly aware and appreciative that I had a choice when it came to work, healthcare and lifestyle.
I became an advocate for the right of a woman to be fully expressed, to say no, and to be free from violence perpetrated solely on the basis of being female.
I chose to have a family (not a popular choice at that time!) and to pursue photography both as a means of self-expression and personal growth. Much later I began a Masters degree in Transformative Art to connect my background in psychology with my desire to be a fine art photographer whose work could make a difference for positive social change.
As an artist I have focused on using the creative process as a tool for personal growth and community awareness.
I know that our innate wisdom holds great power and our personal expression of that wisdom can cross borders and reach far beyond ourselves to grow and affect change for generations to come, and this is where Traveling Postcards comes in.
What kind of work are you doing with the Traveling Postcards project ? Where has it gone and where do you still want it to go?
Traveling Postcards is a global movement to bring voice, visibility and personal connection to those who have been silenced due to violence, repression or isolation. Through hands-on art-making workshops, leadership opportunities, educational resources, virtual galleries and open forums we create a platform that shares art, power and creative potential with the world.
Each participant is asked to draw on his or her own unique experience with resiliency and share it with another by creating a piece of art that is hand delivered—either locally or globally—to a woman who is in need of compassionate solidarity. You do not need to be an “artist” to make a postcard. Each participant is surprised and delighted by their creativity and to see that their cards contain colors, words and images that reflect their strongest selves.
For many, we answer the question “What can I do to help effect change?” Traveling Postcards solves the problem of “the other” or a disconnection from humanitarian situations that are geographically separate from our own.
By sitting down and making a piece of art for someone, we provide a personal connection to the issues and to individuals to create opportunities to see our commonalities despite geographic or cultural borders.
For others, being asked to add their voices to a collective wisdom that is being shared in a public forum is an opportunity to be acknowledged and to see that their own voice can be a powerful tool for positive change.
Traveling Postcards has collected over 700 handmade cards carrying voices to and from the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Costa Rica, Niger, Namibia, America, Haiti and Afghanistan. These cards are never mailed, but instead carried in suitcases, backpacks and on foot to communities of women so recipients understand their struggles are not going unnoticed.
Our grassroots campaign involves all ages, from middle school to seniors. This year we have our first two Traveling Postcards High School clubs!
Traveling Postcards has grown from a personal art project to a movement that has the possibility to effect widespread change. I would like Traveling Postcards to join other global aid agencies and provide a much needed opportunity for people around the world to see that we are not limited by our immediate circumstances and that by accessing and seeing our unique wisdom, we can choose to be fully expressed in our own communities and create a better life for ourselves and for those around us.
I would like to collect voices of all people who suffer from a lack of opportunity to speak. Even in our fast-paced digital age, where everyone seems connected all the time, there are still many who remain silent.
I believe that nurturing our hearts after experiencing trauma is just as important as our need for food, shelter and economic aid. Art is a wonderful tool that can help heal our suffering, and everyone can be an artist.
What inspired you to start this project?
As a photographer I was already working on a series of images that were reflecting our changing landscape and my relationship to time. As my life was getting busier and busier, I saw the only time I had to photograph anymore was on our family vacations when I was confined to a car for long periods of time without my computer, school or work distractions. I started photographing out my car window while traveling 80 miles an hour! It was in that space that I finally slowed my thinking and saw the incredible beauty of the land as well as a way of life that is slowly fading.
As I photographed old buildings, barns and houses in decay, I began to recognize that our lives have become so busy we no longer have time to handwrite a letter, sweep our kitchen floors or make a homemade dinner.
I discovered old postcards in antique stores along the way that contained beautiful snippets of stories lost in time. I loved that I could bridge time and walk into another life, simply by reading a story on a back of a card. I saw that postcards contain our handwriting, our voices and the story we choose to share long after we are gone.
I started making old-fashioned postcards from my “Drive By” photographs and eventually merged my interest in collecting stories from women with the postcards.
Soon after I began this series, I was asked to travel to Malawi, Africa and help record women’s stories. I wanted to bring a gift from my community and I began photographing women I knew, and asking them to share their pictures and their wisdom on the back of a postcard that I would bring with me to Africa.
I thought of the old fashioned sewing circles where women used to gather to make something beautiful for someone else and created an event to bring women together to make postcards. I brought beautiful materials to work with and I wanted the whole experience to be nurturing and empowering. I found that we hold some of our most precious wisdom close to our hearts, and by engaging with creativity it frees our fears about letting go and we are able to share our most precious knowledge.
I never made it to Malawi, but the postcards went for me! I realized that women all over the world would like to connect and share what they know to be true, but cannot due to work, family and economic barriers. So Traveling Postcards was born and since that time over 700 cards have been made and shared from California to Costa Rica, Africa and Afghanistan!
What can our readers do to support the Traveling Postcards project?
First of all, you can make a postcard! Postcard workshops are easy and fun for everyone. Anyone can become a facilitator and host a workshop in his or her community, and we encourage everyone to get involved—men too!
We have directions and guidelines on the website and lots of good ideas about art materials and how to get started. All the cards we receive are scanned and archived and placed in our virtual galleries.
We often see that once you make a card, you fall in love with it and it is hard to give it away. But it is the act of service that is so powerful and we will always keep a record of your card so that it will continue its magic even after it has traveled on to another woman.
Please tell your friends and “like “us on Facebook. The more people who know about Traveling Postcards the better! Please join our Forum online and add your voice to the conversation. Tell us what you are doing to make positive change in your community.
We are also funding very special after school art classes in Afghanistan through our partnership with Trust In Education. We know that creativity and freedom of expression go a long way in educating children to be tolerant and open-minded. We must raise $ 1000 to keep our classes going for another year. I am passionate about helping women and girls in Afghanistan to be fully independent and self-expressed, and I am looking for opportunities to bring a Traveling Postcards workshop to women who are currently living in Afghan shelters. If you want to support Afghan women and girls, make a Traveling Postcard and send it to us.
Lastly, take time for yourself, slow down if you can and open your heart to share your wonderful wisdom with the world! We need you.
Caroline Lovell believes that by encouraging self-expression and global connections we can learn from our commonalities and create opportunities for everyone to become agents of change in their own community. You can learn more about Caroline on the Traveling Postcards website.
Christine Mason Miller is a writer and mixed-media artist who loves to travel, wander and explore, whether on her own or vicariously through others. Her latest book – Desire to Inspire: Using Creative Passion to Transform the World– is now available on Amazon.com and at bookstores everywhere. Visit her at www.christinemasonmiller.com.